Jasmine at an ending

In the last week there have been two minor bits of news that have got me fuming. The first was a secondary school’s announcement that it was introducing a gender neutral school uniform.  In other words all the students, male, female and gender-fluid, would have to wear the same outfit of trousers, shirt and, I think, blazer and tie. They said this was to be inclusive to transgender students. I don’t think they actually asked any pupils for their opinions or ideas before making the decision, perhaps they did, but I doubt it. The point is that the uniform is not gender neutral, it is male. Now, girls often wear trousers and a shirt but I doubt whether all girls want to wear trousers and a shirt all the time.  I’ll come back to that in moment.

The second item was the “Christian” mother and father who withdrew their “confused” six year old son from a C of E primary school because the school had allowed another pupil who had been classed as a boy to wear a dress.  It’s not clear whether the gender-variant pupil was making a permanent change from male to female or was taking it day to day. In this case the school was following the law of the UK, following the 2010 Equality Act, recognising that gender is not dependent on what bits you have between your legs and giving transgender people the same rights as every one else. Secondly the C of E recently adopted, at last, an inclusive and welcoming attitude to transgendered people of all ages.  The critical parents have no cause to complain about the school’s action and if they want to lock their child away from an inclusive and diverse society they can home-school him. I fear for their child. The other child I hope will continue to receive support from his school, parents and peers.

What irritates me is that both cases show people just not getting this gender thing. If a school really wants to have a gender neutral uniform policy then allow all students to wear what they like within a set list of trousers, skirts (or dresses), shirts, blouses, and whatever else is deemed necessary. The clothes themselves are not gender specific; it is people that make stereotypical assumptions about what people wear. There is nothing about a skirt that makes it exclusively female other than preconceptions. Also of course, gender identity isn’t just about clothes, but that’s a longer story.

Gender stereotypes are not only discriminatory to those who identify with a gender that does not match their physical attributes. They also have a negative effect on boys and girls generally.  99% of boys are happy being boys and probably never think about their gender. The same applies to 99% of girls. But stereotypical attitudes such as girls are weak, cannot do maths, while boys are boisterous and don’t do emotions, hold back boys’ and girls’ development in many different areas. I would advocate removing all stereotypical gender clues from homes, schools, everywhere in fact, and let children’s gender identity grow naturally. The result may be more rounded characters of boys and girls, and more toleration of those that are different to the 99%.

………………………….

Next Saturday I will at another Bookfair, once again offering my Jasmine Frame and September Weekes books for sale at very generous prices.  Come and have a look around Sandbach.21231716_1488469007907635_8734692676374905958_n

And finally, we’ve reached the final episode of Viewpoint, chronologically the last prequel before Painted Ladies.  Comments welcome.

Viewpoint: Part 14

DC Kingston looked blank for a moment, then nodded.
‘I see. Stay here. Taylor’s in the next room, but when Tom and Terry have finished talking to him they may send him back to the cells. I’ll be back soon.’ He turned and left the room leaving Jasmine sitting with a cold cup of coffee and cold slice of toast. She ate the toast.

Almost half an hour passed and Jasmine was fidgeting with boredom. At last the door opened and Derek entered.
‘We’ve got response teams looking for your Harold up and down the canal. Tom and Terry have just finished Taylor’s interrogation. He didn’t answer any of their questions. The custody officer is going to take him, back to the cell in a minute or two. Come and stand in the corridor.’
Jasmine got up and followed her colleague. They stood a few feet along from the door into the other interview room. The moments passed and Jasmine wondered what she should say to Taylor.
A burly uniformed officer passed them and opened the door. A few seconds later, Kevin Taylor emerged. He looked more dishevelled than before, with another day’s growth of beard and heavy eyes.
Jasmine stepped into his path. He stopped and looked at her without registering recognition.
‘I didn’t meet Alfie, but I know what he went through,’ Jasmine began.
‘Don’ know an Alfie,’ Taylor recited like a well-rehearsed refrain.
‘You called him Lucy, but he’d never been your daughter. You knew it, really. Before he left you beat him for saying he was a boy and making himself look masculine.’
Taylor stared at her, not responding, but his eyelids flickered.
Jasmine went on. ‘When he went to Weymouth he got help. He managed to have his breasts removed. But it wasn’t because he was trans. Do you know why he was able to get it done?’
Taylor stood impassive but his head almost moved from side to side.
‘It was because of his mother, your wife, who had supported him. Alfie had her genes and had a high risk of getting breast cancer. So, they gave him the mastectomy that helped him become the man he knew himself to be. But you, his only remaining parent, denied him.’
‘He wasn’t my girl,’ Taylor blurted.
‘Not your girl, but the same person he’d always been. The child of you and your wife, left in your care after his mother died.’
‘It was a bloke that appeared on my doorstep. He said he was my son. I told him I only had a daughter.’
‘He wanted your help. A father’s help.’
Taylor cried out. ‘He wasn’t my girl.’
‘He was the same person,’ Jasmine repeated.
‘She’d had things done to her. Like my darling Rosie. It made me angry to see how she’d changed.’
‘So angry that you had to get rid of him?’
‘Riley said he’d see to her.’
‘He took him away, kept him prisoner, hurt him. You gave your son to two heartless thugs who thought they could have their sadistic fun with someone they barely thought of as human, because you had rejected him. They beat him, raped him, killed him.’
Jasmine saw Taylor’s eyes widening in horror.
‘I didn’t mean them to kill her,’ he appealed. ‘I didn’t know what Riley and Owen were like. When he told me that Lucy was dead I didn’t know what to think.’
‘But they had to get rid of the body so you helped them.’
‘I didn’t know what else I could do.’
‘You helped them put the bodyin the back of your car and drove it to the canal.’
‘Yes.’
‘And dumped the body of your son in the water.’
Taylor raised his hands to his face and sobbed. ‘Yes.’
Derek Kingston stepped forward and took Taylor’s arm. ‘I think we’d better go back into the interview room, Mr Taylor. Perhaps you will answer some questions now that we’ve heard you admit to helping dispose of your son’s body. Maybe you’d like the solicitor that you refused earlier.’
Taylor, shrunken, with tears streaking his grubby cheeks, nodded, and was led by the custody officer back into the interview room.
Derek turned to Jasmine. ‘Thanks. We got our breakthrough. Why don’t you go down to the canteen and get a fresh coffee.’
Jasmine nodded and trudged off reluctantly. She wanted to complete the job and get Taylor’s signed statement admitting his part in Alfie’s death, but she accepted that she wasn’t going to be given that opportunity.

She sat alone at a table, with a steaming mug of instant coffee, munching a soggy sausage roll. The canteen was quiet at this time of day, just a few officers and civilians chatting on their break. The canteen wasn’t very cheery but it was a place of refuge from the often-frenzied work taking place on the floors above. She took a sip of coffee thinking it would probably be the last time she would have to drink the not very palatable fluid.
‘Derek said he’d sent you down here.’
Jasmine looked up to see Tom standing over her. ‘Hi, Tom.’
‘Sloane asked me to find you. He wants to see you.’
Jasmine put her mug down. Another coffee that would turn cold. She stood up. ‘Okay then. I don’t suppose he wants to congratulate me.’
‘You did get us a result, Jas. Derek said how you got Taylor to break down. That was great work.’
‘I was letting my feelings out, that’s all. I just wanted that chance to tell him about his son, making him see that Alfie was the same person as Lucy. The little girl he thought he had brought up had become a young man. Unfortunately, a depressed and disappointed young man.’
‘Well, however you did it, Taylor is now answering questions and with the evidence we’ve got and a witness statement from your mate Harold, we’ve found him by the way, the case against Riley and Owen is wrapped up.’
They climbed the stairs to the V&SCU office. The main room was empty but the door to Sloane’s own office was open.
‘You’d better go in,’ Tom said, urging Jasmine forward. She crossed the room and tapped on the door before stepping into the inner sanctum of Sloane’s domain. He looked up from the pile of files he had in front of him.
‘Ah, Frame.’ His nose creased as his eyes took in Jasmine’s tights, skirt, bosom and lipstick. Jasmine stood in front of his desk not surprised that she was not invited to sit down.
‘I understand that the body in the canal case is all but completed,’ the DCI said.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine replied wondering what was coming next.
‘So, you can go home and resume your final leave prior to the termination of your employment at the end of the month,’ Sloane continued.
‘Yes, Sir.’
Sloane sniffed and drew in a breath. ‘I am sorry that this is the conclusion of our acquaintance.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine found herself stuck in a rut of affirmatives with nothing else to say.
Sloane hadn’t finished however. ‘When you joined this unit, Frame, I had high hopes for you and indeed at first you showed that you had the potential to be a fine detective. But, this change you’ve undergone, are, um, undergoing, has unbalanced you. You have become insubordinate, impetuous, careless of your safety, and have placed responsibilities on your colleagues. That is not good in a member of a team, so while I am sad to lose an officer I think you have made this parting inevitable.’
Jasmine felt her cheeks beginning to flush. ‘Please, Sir, may I say something.’
Sloane’s eyebrows rose in surprise. ‘Yes, of course, Frame.’
She summoned the words for what she felt. ‘The Police Force has been very helpful concerning my transition, Sir, but I don’t think my senior officers in this unit have been so understanding. I was side-lined and left to do the in-office tasks instead of joining in other aspects of investigations. Jobs which I had shown I had an aptitude for. Even in this case, DS Palmerston ignored the information that I supplied regarding the victim.’
Sloane puffed out his cheeks. ‘DS Palmerston has been a very successful senior investigating officer. In fact, I recommended her for promotion to Detective Inspector and as a result she is moving to another post, in Warwickshire, I believe.’
‘Palmerston is leaving?’ Jasmine said, feeling simultaneously victorious and disappointed.
‘Yes. It means I have two places to fill – one for a DS and one a DC. But that won’t concern you Frame. I understand you are becoming a private detective.’ His nose and mouth creased with disdain. ‘I hope you are successful in your new career.’
‘I will be, DCI Sloane, I will be.’ Jasmine turned on her heels and strode out. She passed Tom as she crossed the office.
‘Oh, Jas,’ he called, ‘here are your car keys.’ He held out the Fiesta’s key fob. She took it.
‘Thanks, Tom.’
‘I hope she starts okay. Derek had a bit of trouble last night bringing her back.’
‘She’s temperamental, Tom.’
‘Like her owner.’ Tom’s voice dropped to a whisper, ‘I heard you having a go at Sloane about Denise. I didn’t know she was leaving.’
‘Well, there you are Tom, your chance to get your Detective Sergeant post. Good luck.’
She walked out of the office, waving goodbye to Tom and her career as a police officer.

The End

 

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Jasmine fears for her life

When this blog goes live I will (or should) be at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford.  There, I hope to meet lots of other writers and sell lots of books – we’ll see.  Next week it’s off to Warwick for the annual NAWG festival which promises to be fun – more of that later.

Not a lot of time for writing in the last week thanks to preparations for the weekends and other stuff.  However I did manage to complete reading Eddie Izzard’s autobiography, Believe Me.  It’s not a long account and reads a little like his stand-up style – stream of consciousness with thought-provoking and amusing asides.  While I found his tales of childhood, school and the decade of training for his career in front of audiences enlightening but I was, of course, most interested to read about his transvestism. It didn’t disappoint.

51KeV+2+txL._AC_US218_Eddie tells of discovering at a pretty young age his urge to put on women’s clothes but it wasn’t till he was starting his comedy career and living in London that he dared to go out dressed. His early trans history seems like many – a fumbling, nervous journey to finding  the styles and appearance that at least partly satisfied the desire to be feminine. Gradually he became more confident and confessed his transvestism to friends and family. I hadn’t realised that it wasn’t till the nineties, when he was already a growing success on the stand-up circuit, that he first went on stage in any feminine guise.  Having found that it didn’t deter audiences he kept at it but made sure that he didn’t become known as a purely trans-comedian. He would do one show in male clothes and another in feminine dress without changing his material.

WP_20170824_12_54_04_ProGradually he came to a similar conclusion about himself as I have done.  He doesn’t attempt to pass as a woman but just confesses to liking wearing heels, makeup, nail varnish and items of feminine clothing.  He seems pretty content.  Izzard calls it “action transvestism”.  I think it is being non-binary or at least blurring the lines between male and female.  Now when I go out, fully dressed and made up in female guise but without boobs or wig, I can’t imagine that I “pass” but it seems to work and I have yet to experience a negative response.  We’ll see this weekend, up north. . .

And so to this week’s episode of Viewpoint, the Jasmine Frame novella.  She’s got herself into a bit of pickle has our Jasmine.  Can she get herself out of it?

Viewpoint: Part 11

‘Er, ‘ello, Mr Taylor. Didna ‘spect to see you ‘ere again.’ Riley replied.
Jasmine opened her eyes to see Gary lowering his arm and stepping away from her. She heard Riley shuffling and the hard sound of boots on the wooden floor.
‘I didn’t expect to see you here either Riley but when you didn’t answer yer phone I thought I’d better come lookin’ for yer.’
‘Sorry, Mr Taylor. I left ma phone in ma cabin.’
‘Yer a fool Riley. What yer doing with another girl here? Yer know the cops have been snooping around.’
‘She wuz ‘ere when we came to clean up the place.’
The heavy steps came closer, and Jasmine found herself looking up into the stubbled face of Alfie’s father.
‘Yer bloody fools,’ he shouted, turning on Riley and his mate. ‘Do yer know who this is?’
‘’im said he was a private dick. ‘im’s a bloke dressed as a tart.’
‘I know,’ Taylor roared, ‘but he’s a copper. He was at my place last night. I don’t know how he did it but somehow, he linked you t’me. That’s why you and I have had visits today from the fuzz.’
‘But they don’t know about this place,’ Riley complained, ‘That’s why we came to clean it up like, so that there’s no sign of yer girl.’
Taylor’s voice rose another pitch. ‘Don’t call her my girl. It wasn’t my princess you did away with. The cops will know of this place now. Unless. . .’ he subsided to almost a whisper, ‘he’s on his own in which case we just have to get rid of him.’
‘That’s what we were goin’ to do,’ Riley sounded proud of himself.
‘Not here, you fucking idiot,’ Taylor shouted. ‘There’ll be more mess to clear up. Get him in the Landie and we’ll cart him off to somewhere where the cops won’t find him.’
‘Where?’ Riley asked.
‘Dunno. Not the fucking canal again tha’s for sure. Just get him out of here and make sure he can’t get away.’
Gary had been standing silently, his knife-holding arm hanging by his side. ‘Don’t we get to have some fun?’
Jasmine heard Riley let out a sigh. ‘Don’t you get it, Gary? It’s an ‘im not an ‘er. He’s got a cock not a cunt. Come on, do as Mr Taylor says.’
The two men turned to Jasmine. Gary held her down while Riley untied her ankles from the bed but quickly re-bound them together. She tried to wriggle but Gary cuffed her around the head and out his considerable weight on her. Riley did the same with her arms, rolling her over to fasten her wrists behind her back, then stuffed a filthy rag in her mouth and bound cord around her head. She found she had to concentrate on sucking air into her lungs. Gary picked her up as if she was a sack of potatoes, tossed her over his shoulder and carried her out of the hut into the dark. He dropped her, not at all carefully onto the straw covered rear of the Land Rover. The lights of the hut went out.
‘Get in the front,’ Taylor ordered. Soon the engine started and they began to move. Jasmine was bounced up and down as they travelled along the rough track. Each bump threw her up an inch or two; each fall on the hard surface of the pick-up bruising her and making her worry about getting her next breath. Jasmine was relieved when they reached a smoother, metalled road and the bouncing lessened although the speed increased and the cold wind froze her body.
Jasmine could see nothing of their journey, nor interpret the motion of the vehicle, and had to use nearly all her concentration to breathe and overcome the pain of the cords biting into her wrists and ankles. She had enough sense though, to note that the surroundings remained dark revealing that they were still in the country.
After a time in which the pain in her arms and legs went through numbness to agony, the Land Rover slowed and started to buck again. Treetops closed over the clouded sky. Jasmine had no idea where they were other than they were off even the minor roads and in a wooded area.
The vehicle stopped and Jasmine heard the doors of the cab open.
‘Keep you voices down,’ Taylor hissed. ‘Gary get the fucker; Riley bring some tools. Yer going to have dig, the two of you.’
Jasmine was picked up and thrown over the big man’s shoulder. They set off into the rough ground under the trees. After a few minutes Gary stopped.
‘Is this far enough, boss? Me back is killing me.’
There was a pause then Taylor spoke. ‘Yeah, it’ll do, I s’pose. Dump him and get digging.’
Jasmine was dropped. She hit the ground with a thump that would have hurt a lot more if the floor of the wood hadn’t been covered with a thick layer of leaf litter. She lay still, struggling for air. She heard the sound of a pick-axe thudding into the earth, a spade grinding into the ground and soil being thrown. With her face almost pressed into the muck she saw the merest reflections of pale, yellow light from a single torch. There was almost no feeling in her limbs now other than an undefined, excruciating ache. Even if she could loosen the bonds she didn’t think she’d be able to move. Escape seemed impossible. She didn’t want to die; she couldn’t bear the thought of dying but hope was dribbling away with every moment.
‘Police! Don’t move! Drop the tools!’ A shout, the voice familiar. Two, three bright white torchlights. ‘You’re under arrest. Don’t try to get away. You are surrounded.’
Jasmine recognised the caller. It was Tom Shepherd.
‘What were you intending to bury?’ Tom asked. The torch-light grew weaker then stronger until a beam entered her partly open eyes.
‘Jasmine?’

……………to be continued

Jasmine in the dark

I’d rather not have to think about Trump but I cannot ignore his latest (as of Thursday) order, that is, banning transpeople from the US armed forces.  It could be said that it is none of my business as I don’t live in the USA but the fact is that anything Trump says or does reverberates around the world.  With the UK government cosying up to him to get a “super” trade deal post Brexit, what happens in the USA has repercussions here.

Why has Trump made his banning order? I am sure the only generals he spoke to were the ones who would support his view and the cost argument is a mere excuse. I think that first and foremost Trump is trying to overturn everything that Obama did and stood for.  Allowing transpeople to serve was one of Obama’s last acts so it must be high up Trump’s list.  Secondly, Trump is of course trying to appeal to his core followers – right wing, bible-bashing bigots. His support has diminished considerably since he sort of won the presidential election but he has to keep those committed Trumpsters cheering him to soothe his ego.

What will be the effect of Trump’s order?  I don’t suppose it will affect the USA armed services a great deal but it gives legitimacy to anyone who sees transpeople as being abnormal and a separate segment of society who should be treated differently.  If the right to serve can be denied to a transperson, what other rights can be removed? Of course what applies to transpeople can quickly be extended to others – gays, ethnic minorities, women.

What this news does is put transpeople in the spotlight. It could make them a target for the misguided people who feel that using violence against minorities is doing Trump’s or God’s work.  We must not allow any actions against transpeople or other minorities to be ignored or dismissed as unimportant.

Not a good week for the human race.

………………………..

IMGP5761Let’s move swiftly on to this week’s episode of Viewpoint.  Just a reminder that this is the latest of the prequel novellas that I put out on this blog.  The three novels, Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, and The Brides’ Club Murder are each available as e-books and paperbacks.  The two novellas, Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt are only on Kindle. Go to my Jasmine Frame page for more details.

Viewpoint: Part 7

Keep calm, she told herself, he doesn’t know who you are. He doesn’t want to shoot you, really. She reached into her pocket. He stiffened and the barrel of the shotgun moved a few centimetres towards her.
‘I’m a police officer, Jasmine Frame,’ Jasmine said, pulling her warrant card from her pocket and holding it up. The gun didn’t move. ‘I’m investigating the movements of Alfie Benson.’ The gun barrel remained threateningly close to her.
‘Don’t know the name,’ the man growled.
‘You are Mr Taylor, owner of Yew Tree Farm?’
‘What of it?’
‘You had a daughter, Lucy?’
The barrel wobbled. Was he losing control, she fretted. How do I get out of this without getting shot, deliberately or accidentally? I need to keep calm and keep him calm, she thought.
‘Yeah, I did once. She left.’
‘When was that?’
‘A long time ago. Years.’
‘You haven’t seen her recently? In the last year?’
‘No.’ The gun was brandished at her. ‘Why’re you asking?’
‘I told you. I’m trying to find out where Alfie Benson went.’ She didn’t want to make the link to Lucy Taylor explicit. He was obviously in denial about his daughter’s gender change.
‘I said, I don’t know that person. You sound funny. Are you a bloke?’
Jasmine felt ice in her veins. If he didn’t accept Alfie’s transition, what would his reaction be to her as a transsexual police officer? Perhaps this was the moment to retreat.
‘OK, Mr Taylor. Thank you. I’ll be on my way.’
She moved away from the gate, circling around the end of the gun to her car. The barrel followed her than dropped. She felt Taylor watching her as she got in and heard a muttered ‘Fucking, tranny’. The engine started first time, she was grateful for that, and she pulled out onto the narrow lane. She looked in her mirror. The dark figure of Mr Taylor watched her for a moment and then moved out of sight, up the farm track. Jasmine drove on for a few more yards till she came to another field entrance. She pulled in, as far off the road as she could and turned off the engine and lights. Opening her window, drizzle blew into her face. She adjusted her wing mirror to provide a view back up the road then wound the window back up and slid down so that her head was below the back of the seat. Was her hunch right or was she going to have to spend as long as she could bear in this somewhat unusual position?
It was only a few minutes. Movement in her mirror attracted her attention. A vehicle emerged from the farm entrance, turned and accelerated towards her. When it passed her the battered Land Rover Defender was already moving faster than she would be comfortable driving along these lanes. Jasmine pushed herself back up the seat and started the engine. She set off down the lane, following but not matching the farmer’s speed.
He was out of sight when she reached the main road. She took a guess, turned towards Kintbridge and put her foot down. The old Fiesta whined as she took her speed up to sixty. She was grateful that there was little traffic on the dark, wet night. A couple of minutes later, on a straight stretch of the road she saw the red lights of a vehicle ahead. She kept her speed up until she was certain. It was the Land Rover. She slowed, ensuring that she was a good distance behind Taylor.
They passed under the bypass but then Taylor turned right onto a minor road. Jasmine followed, some distance behind, wary of catching him up. They drove a few hundred yards along the lane and then she saw Taylor turn left. She slowed down and as she approached the turning she realised it was an entrance. Driving past she peered into the murky darkness. It was a park home site. She drove on for fifty metres and pulled off the road where there seemed to be a wide and firm grass verge.
She trudged back along the lane to the entrance. There were no gates just a low brick wall on both sides of the road. The low rectangular buildings forming silhouettes against the dark sky were set out in a regular grid. One or two had lights showing but most were dark. Jasmine walked slowly up the driveway between the buildings, trying to think of her story if anyone approached her. She passed the first and the second row of homes and then she stopped. The Land Rover had pulled off the drive and was parked beside the next single-story cabin. That was all she needed to know. She turned and walked hastily back to her car.

Jasmine yawned as she climbed the stairs to the office. She hadn’t slept well thinking about Alfie Benson and his father. She walked along the corridor and pushed the door to V&SC unit open. She saw at once that she was late. She glanced at her watch. It was precisely seven a.m. but the team were already standing facing DS Palmerston and the white board with photos stuck to it. Palmerston saw her enter and gave her a look which would have curdled a dozen bottles of milk.
‘So, DC Frame deigns to join us after her jaunt around the country.’
Tom turned his head and gave her a sympathetic smile. Jasmine went to his side refusing to respond to her senior officer.
Palmerston faced the team. ‘Thanks to our wandering DC, we know the victim found in the canal yesterday was named Lucy Taylor, formerly of Weymouth but recently of no known address. We also know that she died before entering the canal,’ she glanced at the sheet of paper she was holding, ‘of asphyxiation due to pressure on her windpipe, possibly by a rope.’
Sadness gripped Jasmine. It was all too easy to imagine the transman dying in terror.
Palmerston went on. ‘The pathologist also reports other injuries on her body from before she died. She had had a double mastectomy, there was a bruise on her left cheek and on many parts of her body suggesting she had been beaten. He also thinks that marks on her vagina suggest she had sexual intercourse forcibly on at least one occasion not long before she died.’
‘He was raped,’ Jasmine blurted out.
‘She, not he,’ Palmerston sneered, ‘You found out for us that her legal name was Lucy Taylor and that she had never been granted a G, er R, er, whatever.’
‘He had lived as Alfie Benson for six years,’ Jasmine said, ‘He was stopped from transitioning fully and from applying for a G R C, because of his poor mental health.’
‘I am sure her doctors recommended the best treatment for her,’ Palmerston replied.
Derek Kingston coughed. ‘It does seem that she was mistreated and raped before being killed.’
‘Yes, of course, Derek,’ Palmerston gave the detective constable a smile as if she was pleased with his assessment of the case. ‘It appears that she was treated poorly for some time before she was killed. The question is where?’
‘If she lived in Weymouth how did she end up in the canal here?’ Terry Hopkins moaned.
‘She hadn’t lived in Weymouth for months,’ Tom answered.
‘I think she was here,’ Jasmine said. All four of the detectives looked at her.
‘Here?’ DS Palmerston said her voice rising.
‘The Kintbridge area,’ Jasmine clarified. ‘She was brought up in Cindersworth where her father, Mr Taylor, still runs Yew Tree Farm.’
‘You had an address for her father!’ Denise Palmerston screamed.
Jasmine had guessed she would be in for a roasting when she revealed she had that knowledge.
‘Yes, it was in her medical notes that the Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter supplied. They’re in the case file. You could have accessed it.’
‘But you didn’t see fit to draw our attention to that fact.’
‘I was told that you had gone off duty and wouldn’t be interested until this meeting.’
Palmerston subsided a little as she struggled to find a suitable rejoinder. ‘We need to speak to Mr Taylor and inform him of his daughter’s death. I am sure he will be upset at the news.’
Jasmine had a reply, ‘I don’t think so; not as a grieving, loving parent.’
All her colleagues stared at her.
‘What do you mean, Jas?’ Tom asked.
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘Well, first of all, Mr Taylor abused Alfie after Mrs Taylor died. Alfie was a teenager and wanting to transition. His father beat him and raped him. Alfie told the GIC nurse but wouldn’t report it to the police.’
‘That’s a serious allegation,’ Palmerston said.
‘The nurse I spoke to thought it was a significant contributor to Alfie’s depression that stopped her going further.’
Derek stared at Jasmine, his eyes questioning. ‘You said firstly, Jas. Do you have more?’
Jasmine smiled. ‘Mr Taylor denies all knowledge of Alfie Benson and says he hasn’t seen his daughter Lucy for years.’
‘How do you know that?’ DC Hopkins asked.
‘You’ve spoken to him, haven’t you,’ Tom said, his eyes wide, ‘You called at the farm on the way home last night.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine admitted. ‘And I think I know where Alfie was held.’

……………………..to be continued.

 

Jasmine follows a hunch

So Jeremy Corbyn supports self-identification for transgender people. He says the Labour Party would support a Bill to modify the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical tests as part of gender reassignment. May’s government says it is considering the change but has not committed to making it.  (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/19/let-trans-people-self-identify-gender-corbyn-urges-may)

What would it mean?

The most important effect would be the demedicalisation of gender identity.  Like sexuality, it would become a personal matter.  Changing gender would be as easy as changing your name.  Once upon a time being gay was not only a crime but a medical condition which some doctors thought could be treated.  Now, while identifying as something other than your birth gender is not a crime, transitioning to the gender you identify with does involve jumping through various medical hoops including proving that your mental health is good enough to make the decision.  Already, the GRA allows transgender people to transition without undergoing surgery or hormone treatment but insists on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The proposed change would allow the individual to make the decision on their own, by right.

Self-identification could have wider beneficial effects. If gender is no longer seen as a medical issue then it could accelerate the breakdown of gender barriers and improve gender equality. Why demand a statement of gender to open a bank account, store account et al, if gender can be changed by personal decision?  Why demand to know someone’s gender when they apply for a job hence bringing all sorts of bias into play?  With many modern names gender neutral, a person’s character will be at the forefront not their gender.

I hope any changes to the law will not perpetuate gender stereotypes by insisting that a person declare themselves permanently male or female.  If gender identity is demedicalised then it must become possible to declare that one has no gender, both or a mix. That would please me a lot.  Let’s hope Corbyn and the Labour Party stick to their word and the Tory government (backed by the DUP) are not persuaded by the reactionary elements in their ranks.

……………………………………

cover mediumYou might have seen my news elsewhere that the cover of my new fantasy/speculative fiction novel, Cold Fire, has been revealed by Elsewhen Press.  The e-book will be available in August and the paperback in October.  It is a September Weekes story involving Welsh myth, C17th science, and my own vision of fantastic creatures.  I love the cover and the interpretation of the creature – it’s red, flies and spits fire, so what is it?

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Jasmine Frame in Viewpoint, the prequel to Painted Ladies.  Jasmine is investigating the death of a transman.

Viewpoint: Part 6

Hazel shook her head slowly and shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Alfie missed an appointment once before we saw him for the last time in October last year. I remember him being depressed and uncommunicative. We did get out of him that he was struggling to get by – no job, limited benefits, few friends in Weymouth.’
‘And getting nowhere with his transition,’ Jasmine added.
The nurse nodded. ‘That’s right. We couldn’t recommend him for medication and surgery in the state he was in. I worried if he was becoming suicidal.’
Jasmine flinched. She hadn’t considered suicide. Was she mistaken? No, she was almost certain Alfie hadn’t killed himself.
‘I’ve been assuming he was murdered,’ she said, ‘His body looked as though it had been dumped in the canal.’
Hazel looked grim. ‘Well, I can’t say what has happened to him in the last year. He didn’t come to his appointment; he hasn’t replied to emails and the last letter we sent was returned to us as “unknown at this address”.’
‘You think he moved from Weymouth?’
‘Seems like.’
‘Where would he have gone?’ Jasmine was struggling to put herself into the mind of a depressed and lonely transman.
Hazel shrugged again. ‘The only other address we have is where he grew up. His father’s home. Despite everything his father was still his next of kin.’
Jasmine felt a surge of interest. Another lead perhaps. ‘What’s the address?’
Hazel flicked through the file. ‘Ah, here it is. Yew Tree Farm, Cindersworth, Hampshire.’
Jasmine gasped. ‘But that’s no distance from where Alfie’s body was dumped.’
‘Really?’ The nurse’s eyebrows were raised.
‘I don’t know the farm, but Cindersworth is a village south of Kintbridge. It can’t be ten miles to the canal. Surely, he wouldn’t have -’
‘What?’
‘Gone home to his father and killed there.’ Jasmine couldn’t understand how the young man could return to the parent who had abused him, but of course Alfie wasn’t the man he wanted to be, he was a confused and depressed transsexual.
‘His father was the only family he had,’ Hazel offered, ‘Sometimes the devil you know is the only one drawing you in.’
Jasmine jumped from the sofa. ‘I’ll have to call there. Can I borrow your computer – I need to find the location of this farm.’
‘Yes, of course. Let me call up Google Maps for you.’ Hazel returned to the seat behind her desk and started tapping keys. Jasmine looked over her shoulder.
‘There we are,’ Jasmine said, stabbing a finger at the screen. ‘Can you print it off?’
Hazel nodded and the printer under the desk started chuntering. Jasmine grabbed the sheet of paper and scampered towards the door.
‘Thank you for all your assistance,’ she called.
‘I hope you find out what happened to Alfie,’ Hazel cried after her.

Jasmine was in her car and about to set off when her phone rang again. She glanced at the small screen. It wasn’t Palmerston this time but Tom. She decided to pick up.
‘Hi Tom.’
‘Jas! Where are you?’
‘Exeter. Just interviewed a nurse at the GIC that knew Alfie.’
‘That’s good, but you know Palmerston is furious don’t you.’
‘When isn’t she.’
‘Well, I suppose she is whenever your name is mentioned. She wants you back here.’
‘I expect she does.’
Tom’s voice became conspiratorial. ‘It may calm her down a bit if I tell her what you’ve found out.’
Jasmine considered for a moment. ‘Okay. Well Alfie Benson has been on the clinic’s books for six years but they haven’t heard from him in the last year. He wasn’t getting far with his transition because he was depressed.’ She paused. How much more should she tell Tom now?
‘Is that it?’
‘His birth name was Lucy Taylor. What have you got?’
‘Not a lot. That Weymouth address got us nowhere. Palmerston got the local cops to look in on it. The current tenant didn’t know an Alfie Benson and neither did any of the neighbours that they managed to speak to.’
‘Or they said they didn’t.’
‘Well, okay, perhaps. We haven’t managed to contact the landlord yet.’
‘So, you’ve got no leads on Alfie’s movements before he died.’
‘No, but it was definitely murder. Pathology says he was dead before entering the water and he’d been beaten severely.’
Jasmine was saddened by the news but wasn’t surprised. Was Alfie’s father the murderer? She wanted to find out.
‘Are you coming back then?’ Tom asked.
‘Yes, on my way.’ She glanced at her watch. It would be late evening by the time she got back to Kintbridge even without any detours.
‘We’ll be gone by the time you get here. Palmerston has called a meeting for seven tomorrow morning. She doesn’t think there are any leads to follow tonight.’
‘Even though she knows for certain that it’s a murder case?’ Jasmine was surprised at the DS’s lack of urgency.
‘As I said, no leads.’
Jasmine knew the real reason for the half-hearted attitude of her boss; the victim was TS and in Palmerston’s mind didn’t warrant her full attention.
‘Well, we’ll see about that. Bye Tom.’ She ended the call and turned off her phone. Peering through the windscreen into the dark, drizzly evening she didn’t relish the return journey but she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the gear lever forward.

The drive was frustrating and exhausting. Her eyes ached from peering through the drizzle and light rain, and she met lorry after slow lorry on the single-track stretches of the A303. It wasn’t surprising she was tired, she thought, after the day she’d had – a run, a ducking, mild hypothermia, the tension of a murder to investigate and the journey across country. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the fatigue which occupied her thoughts it was a mixture of her anger at Palmerston for . . . well, for being DS Denise Palmerston, and then there was Alfie Benson. What had he’d been thinking when he left his home in Weymouth? Had he returned to his father’s farm and was it there that he’d met his death?
A road sign reflected the not-so-bright headlights of the Fiesta. Straight ahead was her quickest way back to Kintbridge, the sensible route to her bed, but the sign reminded her of an alternative route, shorter if slower. It would pass near to Cindersworth and Alfie’s childhood home. She found herself taking the turning and joining the new road. It was a darker and narrower but quieter. The rain and the old Ford’s imperfect wipers caused her to lean forward to see the road ahead while looking out for signs.
A signpost to Cindersworth indicated a left turn. She braked hard, turned the wheel and was bumping up a steep, narrow lane. A traditional wooden sign loomed out of the darkness announcing that she had reached the village. She drove slowly past unlit cottages. Then she was back amongst hedges and trees and wondering what to do. The sensible thing would be to head on home but she saw the sign on a wide gate. It was a battered wooden board hanging from frayed ropes but the name was painted in white paint that stood out even through the mist. Yew Tree Farm.
She pulled up alongside the tubular-steel gate, wound down her window and peered into the night. There was a rutted track and a few dozen yards away the brooding presence of buildings. There were no lights, no suggestion that the farm was occupied. She got out and pulled the hood of her puffer jacket over her head and examined the gate. It had no lock or bolt, not even a piece of string looped over the gate post. She placed her hands under the top bar and lifted. The gate moved with a creak and whine of complaining hinges.
‘And who might you be?’
The gravelly voice caused Jasmine to drop the gate. She turned, trying to make out who had spoken. The shotgun attracted her attention first, the barrel glinting in the light from her car. It was hung over the shoulder of a man in an old waxed jacket with a tweed cap on his head. His face was dark and unshaven. He was an inch or two shorter than Jasmine but there was a sturdiness about him. The shot gun strap slid down his arm and the barrel rotated to point towards her.

……………………..to be continued.

Jasmine returns

WP_20170624_16_11_28_Pro

A selfie of me at the Pride event that was part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival

I did something earlier this week that I didn’t used to do.  I was giving a talk about being transgender and mentioned both my male and femme names. At one time I would never reveal my male identity when I was being Penny, but my use of two names is one of the remaining  indications that I can’t completely get rid of my gender stereotypes. I may have given up wearing a wig and false breasts to accentuate my femininity but I still present myself as male or female.  Gender fluid, I think I am, but non-binary is a difficult concept to realise. Most people still want to categorise you as one or the other and forms still demand a title without giving a genderless option – unless you happen to be a Dr or Rev.  Most important is the need to blend in rather than making an issue out of my gender.

I chose my femme name a long time ago because I didn’t consider that my male name, Peter, worked for me as a female.  Yes, I know there are feminine variants such as Peta and Petra (I have known women with both those names) but I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I wished I had one of those names that could be used for either gender. There are names used by both genders, such as Evelyn, Hilary, Leslie/Lesley, Lee/Leigh and Robin (male in UK, female in USA) or names that have a genderless diminutive e.g. Chris (Christopher/Christine), Alex (Alexander/Alexandra), Nicky (Nicholas/Nicola) etc. There are new names which are genderless  such as the hippy names  River and Willow, and others, like Jayden, that I don’t know where they come from .  As I am not going to change my legal name then I think I am stuck with Peter and Penny although I may use them interchangeably.

Choosing names for characters is one of the important but fun parts of planning a story. A character’s name must not be anachronistic and can convey their origins both in ethnicity and class.  I chose Jasmine as the femme name for my transsexual detective, back in 2001, because I thought it sounded a little unusual and exotic. In fact it is a much more common girl’s name than I thought but I’m afraid Jasmine is Jasmine now. Many of the trans characters I have created have pairs of names that connect such as Glen and Glenda when Jasmine was acting as a transvestite and Sandy/Sandra (both spoilers from Painted Ladies.). Vernon/Valerie and Gerald/Geraldine (The Brides’ Club Murder), David/Diana (Darkroom), Andy/Andrea (Aberration) are some of the many others. I don’t think that trans people do choose names like that but I think it helps readers to connect the male and female sides of the character.

There are no new names of characters yet in Viewpoint, the new prequel to Painted Ladies, but we’re only at part three so far.  Here it is.

Viewpoint: Part 3

Jasmine let the hot water cascade over her for minutes longer than her usual showers. She knew the electricity meter would be spinning but she waited till the last vestige of cold had been driven from her body. All the while she saw that cold corpse lying on the towpath. She tried to make sense of what she had seen. When she finally turned the shower off she felt she had an image of the person it had been, and she was worried.
She stepped from the cubicle and quickly wrapped a towel around herself, not merely to dry her body and keep warm but to avoid having to see herself naked. Her body didn’t match her self-image. Surgery was needed for the most dramatic transformation but that was a long way off. Nevertheless, now she was taking the drugs she was hoping for some changes but the hormones had yet to make a noticeable change to her figure. The doctor at the gender clinic had not been too confident of her developing the breasts she desired and nothing could change her broad shoulders and narrow pelvis. Still, she had hopes that one day her body would be recognisably female.
Once dressed in thick tights, a colourful but short woollen skirt and a thick jumper over her bra and false breasts, she prepared her breakfast. She was later than usual and there were things to do – not a lot, but she needed to continue preparations for going into business. She was munching a piece of toast and peanut butter when her mobile phone gave out its urgent ring.
She picked it up and wasn’t surprised to see that it was Tom Shepherd calling. Of course, they would want a statement from her on the discovery of the body.
‘Hi, Tom,’ she said cheerfully.
‘Jas! How are you? Have you warmed up?’
‘Yes, I’m fine now, Tom, but it was cold out there.’
‘Yeah. Look, you’re needed here.’
‘Where?’
‘The station.’
‘For my statement?’
‘Not just that. Sloane wants you on the case.’
Jasmine felt her muscles tense and heart beat increase.
‘But, Tom, I’m not part of the team any more. I resigned. Remember?’
‘I know that, Jas, but you’re still employed to the end of the month, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, I know, but what is it called? Gardening leave? I’m not expecting to work as a police officer anymore. I’m sure Palmerston doesn’t want to see me in that office again.’
There wasn’t an immediate reply but Jasmine heard conversation at the other end, and one familiar raised voice. The muffled exchange was brief.
‘Frame, are you there?’ It was DS Denise Palmerston’s voice blaring at her from the phone.
‘Yes I am. I thought I was talking to DC Shepherd,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage.
‘Well, it’s me telling you to get yourself to this office, now!’
‘I’m not part of the V&SCU,’ Jasmine insisted, knowing that she was just dragging out the inevitable. What DS Palmerston wanted she invariably got.
‘Do you want me to send out a car to arrest you for obstructing an investigation.’
‘No, but . . .’
‘You are still a police officer, DC Frame. Get here now.’ There was an abrupt click of the call being ended. Jasmine imagined that if Palmerston could have slammed the phone down on its cradle she would have done. Perhaps, fortunately, you couldn’t make the same gesture with a mobile phone.
She wondered why her senior officers were so keen to call her into the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office. It surely wasn’t because Denise Palmerston valued her assistance on a case; her tone revealed her discomfort at that prospect. So why had DCI Sloane taken the initiative of bringing her in? That presumably was the cause of the DS’s anger – having to accede to her boss’ request. Jasmine wasn’t looking forward to facing the female detective again but she was intrigued enough by the case and the reasons for her recall to want to find out more. She pulled on her boots, put on her old puffer jacket, grabbed her bag, dropped her phone in it and was about to open the door when she remembered the electric fire. It had been blasting out heat on full power now for a couple of hours and she had got used to the comfort. She turned the fire off knowing that the flat would be cold when she returned but did not want to deplete her meagre funds.
She got into the red Fiesta and turned the ignition key. She was always grateful when the engine started but was not sure how she could perform as a private detective, which would presumably mean a lot of time spent on the streets, with the battered old Ford. At least it was pretty undistinguished and she could not foresee being able to afford a newer model until her income grew, if ever.
It took just a few minutes to drive into the centre of town and to pull into the police station carpark. That action felt both familiar and strange – it wasn’t something she had expected to be doing after walking out a couple of weeks ago. She tried to feel confident as she entered the building and strode passed the desk.
Sgt Gorman glared at her and growled, ‘I thought you weren’t coming back.’
‘Sorry to disappoint you GG but this is as unexpected for me as it is for you.’ Jasmine continued through the secure door without a hesitation. She climbed the stairs to the unit office and only paused, for just a moment, as she pushed the door open. There was a small group of people standing around the whiteboard, the sign that a case conference was taking place. Tom Shepherd turned his head, saw her and smiled. He drew himself up to his full two meters plus height and nodded for her to come and join him. The other two male officers, Derek Kingston and Terry Hopkins, like Tom were facing DS Palmerston who was at the board.
‘Ah, we have Detective Constable Frame,’ Palmerston said. ‘We are pleased to see you, aren’t we gentlemen.’ Her tone revealed the exact opposite but Kingston responded with a smile towards her. Hopkins managed to hide any emotion at her reappearance. ‘Come and join us and give us the wisdom of your experience,’ Palmerston continued in the falsely gracious voice. Jasmine took her place beside Tom, and undid the zip on her jacket. She wasn’t going to make it look as though she had slipped comfortably back into her old environment, but it was warm in the office.
‘We were going over the facts in the case,’ the DS explained. ‘We have a body with no clothes or means of identification so our first problem is finding out who this woman was.’
Jasmine half raised her right hand as if in a classroom. ‘Um,’ she muttered to draw attention to herself while wondering if she needed to or even desired it.
‘Yes, DC Frame,’ Palmerston’s eyes glared at her as if wishing to strike her dead for daring to interrupt. ‘You have a contribution to make.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said, ‘I don’t know how much has been reported about the body, but I don’t think the deceased was a woman.’
Palmerston’s eyebrows rose and her cheeks took on a pink tinge. Jasmine felt, rather than saw, the three men stiffen beside her. They were either expecting the DS to explode in rage or had been jerked out of their complacency by her words.
Denise Palmerston spoke softly and slowly, ‘I know you were suffering from the early stages of hypothermia at the time, DC Frame, but I am sure that you in particular might have noticed that the body lacked a penis. In fact, she has, according to the pathologist, the complete female genitalia – vulva, vagina and clitoris. But of course, you don’t consider them a necessary part of being a woman do you.’
The three male officers squirmed. Jasmine told herself to remain calm. To have made such a blatant reference to her pre-op transsexual status Palmerston was obviously going to the limit to incite her.
‘Yes, I did observe that, ma’am,’ Jasmine said equally quietly and carefully, ‘I also observed that the body had had a double mastectomy. Coupled with the short hair and a hint of beard growth I suggest that the person was a transitioning transman, a female to male transsexual.’
‘There are other reasons for having a mastectomy,’ Palmerston’s voice had risen a few tones. ‘Cancer for example. She was a woman.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘We have different viewpoints,’ she said, ‘but I think the possibility that I suggested should be taken into consideration when seeking the i.d.’
‘I think DC Frame has a point.’
The three men and Jasmine turned to see the speaker, DCI Sloane, standing in the doorway of his office as imposing as ever in his three-piece grey suit.
Sloane went on, ‘I think you should take the possibility that this person presented as a male in planning the investigation.’ He turned around and returned to his office. Jasmine wondered how much he had been listening to the exchange between her and Palmerston.
The DS sniffed, shook her head and pulled herself upright. ‘We shall use all the evidence available to identify the victim and determine what and who caused her death.’

…………………..to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine in Viewpoint

Too much news. After the excitement of the unexpected election result the last three days have been filled with the horror of Grenfell Tower. After all the posturing about security and fighting terror, one inexcusable fire has killed more people than have died in all the terrorist attacks in the UK since 7/7 in 2005 and probably scared people living in similar tower blocks far more. Will the government be as keen  to name those responsible for this un-natural disaster as they are the terrorists? Was it austerity or simply a lack of concern that saw so many immigrants housed in what was so obviously a fire-trap.

Perhaps, after a calamity of this nature, brought on ourselves, it is even harder to say that life must go on than after a mindless act of terror but we must. We need real leadership, not empty words, to hack through the lies and obfuscation to sort out the real priorities for this country – not meaningless demands for sovereignty and taking back control that has long since been handed to overseas and multinational corporations, not putting more money in the pockets of the rich or into pointless vanity projects like Trident, but using the remaining  resources of the country to help all its inhabitants.

That’s enough politicking. Last week saw the end of the Leominster Festival following the Bookfair on the Grange. It wasn’t the big sales drive that I hoped for (but didn’t expect) so now I am on the look out for marketing opportunities for my work – both the Jasmine Frame transgender/crime stories and the September Weekes fantasy novels. I have to get busy.

WP_20170616_16_16_42_ProAs promised last week, I have started the next Jasmine Frame prequel. Started being the operative word as a bit of research and planning was necessary before I could get writing. A short first episode follows of Viewpoint. It is set just a week or two after the end of Perspective, which took place towards the end of 2011. This I think will be the last prequel to fit in the time-gap before the events of the first novel Painted Ladies so I’ve got to be careful that it all matches up. Anyway, here it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Viewpoint: part 1

Rain water mixed with sweat dripped from Jasmine’s nose. She looked down at her running shoes, muddy from splashing through puddles on the towpath and was grateful that she had chosen to wear her older pair this morning. The dark oak gates of Renham lock loomed through the December morning drizzle. She glanced at her watch pleased with her time for completing the two-mile run out from her flat in Kintbidge. Her heart was beating a little faster but she felt strong today, for a change, and eager for the return.
She turned and glanced out across the rain spattered water of the canal. Something bobbing in the water caught her eye, something white, smooth and round. An inflated plastic bag perhaps? No, it was bigger than that. She peered through the veil of drizzle. A dead sheep? You didn’t get those very often on this stretch of water. She rubbed away the water dripping from her forehead and stepped to the edge of the bank to look more closely. There were limbs attached to the main body of the object but they didn’t seem like the legs of an animal. Her heart thumped. A body.
Jasmine paused only to undo her bumbag and drop it on the grass beside the towpath. She stepped off the bank. Her feet sank into the ooze but only up to her calves. The water was cold, icy even. She waded out. The canal got deeper with each step. She knew it was V-shaped in profile but the water only came up to her waist when she reached the body. She could see now it was a person not an unfortunate farm animal. She took hold of an arm. It was as cold as the water. She towed it with her as she struggled back through the water and mud to the side of the canal. Her legs were feeling heavy and numb; the cold penetrating to her bones. She let go of the body and placed both hands on the bank. It took all her strength to haul herself out of the water.
She crouched on the waterside, breathing deeply, shivering, and reached down to grab the arm of the body. Thoughts from her police training passed through her head. Evidence. Make sure that no evidence is destroyed. Don’t contaminate what could be a crime scene. But she had to get the body, the person, out of the water. She hauled on the arm; pushed herself upright; staggered back. The body rose from the water, a dead weight.
Jasmine fell backwards, sprawled across the wet grass. She released her grip. The body fell into the mud on the bank, its feet still dangling in the water. She panted, exhausted by the effort, shaking all over now as the wet and the cold penetrated to her core. Jasmine crawled to the edge reached out across the surface of the water and grabbed the leg of the body. She tugged it to land, the body twisting to lie parallel to the canalside.
She scrambled away from the cadaver to where her bumbag had dropped. Her frozen fingers fumbled with the zip but at last she took out her phone. She stabbed the 9 button three times.
‘Hello? Police please. Renham lock. Sorry, there’s not much signal here. On the canal, west of Kintbridge. No, I don’t think an ambulance will be needed, just a pathologist.’

………………to be continued.

Jasmine is considering

After a couple of weeks of idyllic holiday it is difficult to get back into routine, especially when there is so much to make one want to just curl up again – I won’t say what.  One thing did concern me. It was a report in the news over a week ago about the transwoman who committed suicide while in a male prison. I was concerned to read that she was only 19 and had been living as female since the age of 10.  But, and this is what got to me, she had little idea of what being transsexual means and had had no advice, medical or otherwise to help her transition. Despite all the publicity in recent years about various trans people, she still felt isolated and did not know where to go for help. She had not even begun to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, probably because she had not started any authorised medical treatment.

My understanding is that you do not need to go through surgery or even drug treatment to get a GRC but you do have to have a medical opinion that you are gender dysphoric. I have also heard that your mental state is taken into consideration. You can get to a sort of Catch 22 situation where if you are mad i.e. have mental health issues, you can’t get a GRC while a lot of people consider wanting to change gender a sign of madness.

This woman obviously had issues as she was convicted of crimes and sent to prison. What is appalling is that she received no care from the authorities that were responsible for her welfare while in custody. It also shows that there is still a lack of information about being trans available to the general public, despite the heap of material on the internet. We may be just 1% of the population but that just makes it that much more difficult for people who need help to make contact with those that can provide it. It also shows that the majority of people have a poor grasp of gender issues and do not understand how to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.

………………

IMGP5962I have a busy two or three weeks coming up so a new Jasmine novella will be on hold for a bit longer. In the meantime I’ll continue with other short stories I have stored away (there are lots).  This week I have a recent SF story I wrote (somewhat hurriedly) for a competition.  It didn’t get anywhere which I’m not surprised about.  I think it reads more like a synopsis than a short story.  It is also a familiar theme – colonisation of the Moon – but I hoped I had an original slant. Anyway, here it is.

Life on the Moon

The dark sky. That’s what surprised me most when I got here. I spent lots of time staring at the sky back home. There wasn’t much else to do lying in a cot. I watched the clouds move, that’s all. Then they gave me the neuro-interface. Here, on the Moon’s surface with my suit working at one hundred percent to keep me cool and my visor filter at maximum, the sun’s still too bright to look at directly and yet the sky is black. Yeah, that’s what tells me I’m on the Moon. It’s not the lower gravity, that’s just a pleasure. The weight on my chest is less and my useless muscles don’t have to work so hard.
The thing is they didn’t mention it during training. I suppose those career guys who’d been up to orbit lots of times didn’t think of it. Perhaps they weren’t allowed the time to just stare out of the windows of the space station. Me, well, when I’m turned away from the Sun and see all the stars on that black background it still takes my breath away. That’s probably not a good way of putting it. A break in my breathing would set off all sorts of warning alarms and have the monitor reprimand me for wasting time – time we haven’t got.
I’m outside for almost all my ten-hour shift, keeping an eye or more accurately a few brain cells, on the drills and the rock shifting kit, making small adjustments here and there, occasionally taking control of the waldos and really moving stuff. I love it. I feel useful for the first time in my life. Useful and important.  When I hand over to one of the others I feel as if I’m giving up a part of my body. In some ways, I am.
Yesterday, when I got back from my shift there was a celebration going on. Li told me all about it. We’re friends. She’s so like me; in abilities if not looks or personality. The fuss was over the completion of Cavern 1. Now they can start filling it with all the kit they’ve been hauling up from Earth. That gear will make this place self-sufficient in water, oxygen, metals, and lots of other stuff. The bosses were pleased because the hole was dug ahead of schedule and that was all down to our team.
Soon we’ll finish Cavern 2. It’ll be great to start filling it with the permanent living quarters. The temporary surface pods are cramped and there’s always the chance of a meteor puncturing the skin. The next bunch to come up from Earth will find their cosy apartments all ready for them.  By then the bio domes should be producing real food. I’m looking forward to having something to chew on instead of the concentrated, dried, pre-cooked mush we get from Earth. Once we’ve got our own food supply we can really start calling ourselves colonists.
Some of the guys talk about going home when we’ve finished the heavy work. Not me. Why should I go back to that gravity-well where I can’t move a muscle and I’m treated like a dependent waste of space? Here I’m free and a respected member of the gang. I’d happily see out my life working as a farmer or extending the caverns. Li feels the same. We may pair up and take a shared apartment in Cavern 2; maybe even have kids. I wonder if they would be like us?
Anyway, who really wants to go back to Earth now? It’s not exactly a pleasant place to be these days. The guys who want to go back have family down there so perhaps that gives them a reason. There’s no one down there who wants me back, not when getting food and staying alive is such a struggle, even for people who have the use of their own limbs.
I saw a meteor today. You don’t see them very often because there’s no atmosphere for them to streak through. It caught my eye, well, my camera lens, when it reflected the sunlight. A brief flicker, then it was gone. Thinking about it, perhaps it wasn’t a meteor after all. It wasn’t moving fast enough. Some of the states on Earth don’t like what we’re doing and have threatened to lob a bomb at us. One or two of them still have the capability. That’s why we’re on the “other side” facing away from Earth. Some of the guys are upset that we don’t have a view of Earth but I don’t care. I don’t want to see what we’ve done to that place, or let the bad guys down there have a good view of what we’re doing.
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It was a missile. Li told me that someone she knows in admin said that our defences took it out before it got anywhere near. They’re not expecting many more as they’ve started lobbing nukes at each other down there. That should take their minds off us. Mind you the chances of us getting more supplies look pretty slim. Just like the chances of some of the guys going home.  I’ll just get on with my job managing the machines fitting out Cavern 2. I’m a builder now not a digger.
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That’s it. We’re on our own. The multi-nationals who were behind us don’t exist anymore, like their customers, or most of them anyway. Admin have cut our rations to tide us over until the first crops are ready in a few weeks. It’ll be tough but I don’t need much to eat.
Chatting to Li, she thinks that the company bosses knew this was going to happen. That was why there was such a rush to get the colony set up. She says they used up all their capital to move as much stuff up here as possible in the time that was left. They had to do it without the governments noticing as otherwise their resources would have been commandeered for the patriotic wars.
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Li and I moved into our new home today. It’s on floor 6, two hundred meters below the surface but handy for the elevators. We’ve got more room than we expected because there’s no more people coming up from down below.  We celebrated with a special dinner – a tube of protein paste saved from yesterday’s ration, re-hydrated rice and a fresh lettuce from our first crop.  Food may be short still, but we’re nice and cosy down here and the solar energy collectors on the surface are 100% as it’s mid-moon day. We selected a view of the surface for our video-screen. Some of the others have selected scenes of Earth relayed by the satellite. I don’t know how they can look at that spoiled place now. It’s not the blue, white and green globe it used to be but a dirty brown ball.
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We had boiled egg today. Okay, Li and I had to share it, but it was a real egg; shell and everything. We spent as much time looking at it as eating it. I had no idea that we’d brought chicken embryos up with us. Once we got the bio pods up the chicks were incubated. Now they’re hens and laying.  We had bread with the egg; real bread made from grain grown in the bio pods. Food is still rationed, probably always will be, but we’re self-sufficient.  Li and I talked about raising a kid. Of course, we can’t actually make a baby by ourselves, not us two, but we’re going to have a chat with the meds.
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We’re going to be a mum and dad!  I supplied the sperm and Li the egg and the cybermeds did the rest. Nine months’ time we’ll have a daughter called Selene. We decided against gen-eng so she’ll be like Li and me. Admin agreed to it. In fact, they suggested it. They need our brains but being immobile we don’t need as much food as the ables. Selene won’t be the first child. Dmitri and Makena are having theirs the traditional way, a few weeks sooner. Admin were delighted. Without the extra people that were expected from Earth we’re a small number. Now that the food situation is easing, they want more mouths to feed, and hands and brains to do the work.
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I’ve got a new job.  Admin have patched me into the colony’s mainframe. I’m making sure that all the systems are running to plan. I look after the farmbots in the bio pods, energy generation, the foundries extracting metals and making plastics, the water and oxygen extractors, life support, everything really. It’s not just me of course. Li does a shift and there are others like us.  I wonder if the guys who designed the neuro-interface that give us a life, guessed that one day we’d be running the first colony on the Moon. Okay, it’s probably the last as well, but we have a future, which is more than those poor folks on Earth have got.
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It’s a good job that we can override the default settings. A few of the guys who couldn’t go home to Earth got a bit upset. I had to cut their oxygen. They won’t cause any more problems.
I love this job. It means that I’m on the surface any time I like, looking out through the cameras on the bio pods, the solar collectors and the communications towers. I can see the ragged ridge that surrounds our crater, the grey dust that’s now criss-crossed with the tracks of our machines and I can look up and see the stars in that black sky.
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